5 Rules of Writing Military Resumes

Writing Military Resumes

Thousands of veterans leave the military and transition back home to the civilian world to look for work. One of the key documents you will need is a resume. Your military resume is the key to unlocking the door of your next career after military service.

This document is the determining factor in a hiring manager’s decision to request an interview with you. Since the resume provides a brief overview of your professional experience and achievements, you want it to be nothing other than first-class.  

There are 5 rules of writing military resumes that every veteran must know when creating a top-notch resume:

After reading this article filled with informative advice, you’ll be on your way to writing an outstanding resume in no time. Before we begin, let’s discuss how military resumes are different. 

1. Military Resumes Are Different

Before you write your military to civilian resume or invest in a professional resume writing service, it’s important for you to understand that military resumes are different.

Because the military speaks its own language, the success of landing an interview with a civilian employer lies in translating your military skills to civilian terms.

Common mistakes we see in our free resume review include the following:

  • Jargon
  • Job titles
  • Formatting issues

Simply including your job specialty in your service, a list of tactical trainings, courses, medals, ribbons, awards, and every one of your accomplishments, will not be easily understood by a corporate recruiter or anyone in human resources that does not have any relation to the military.

Depending on your job title in the military, writing and formatting documents wasn’t a part of your day to day duties. Sometimes, you need some assistance in the execution department. No worries, we’ve got you covered.

To help you get started, review your military performance evaluations for important information to craft your resume.

2. Use Military Performance Evaluation Information

Begin your resume writing process by using your military performance evaluation information.

While your performance evaluations are great tools to start with, the evaluations are not structured in a way that allows you to copy and paste the information and apply it to your resume.

Copying and pasting the information does not help tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for. These evaluations were written to speak to a specific audience – the military audience.

If you’re attempting to showcase your achievements with merely a list of military terms and phrases, hiring managers will not be able to relate.

Your performance evaluation is the link to building a military to civilian resume, it’s not the resume. Remember, translating your military experience is a must.

3. Translate Military Experience

Writing Military Resumes

When you’re a veteran transitioning back into the civilian sector, translating your military experience to civilian terms is the most important steps in building your resume.

Each branch of the military speaks its own language and dialect. For example, the unique jargon an Airman may use in the Air Force is confusing for an Army Soldier. 

Now, let’s apply this same concept to the civilian side.

If you speak French, you wouldn’t write your resume in French. How many hiring managers would be able to understand it? Could the company hire a translator or have someone look up the translation on Google? Yes. When you consider the time and/or money spent on this one task, you can easily see that this is not the best-case scenario.

Your job as the applicant is to make the hiring process easy for your potential hiring authority, the organization, as well as yourself.

Therefore, you should not write your resume in Army, Navy, Airforce, Marines, or Coast Guard language.

Additionally, you should avoid using common military buzzwords and phrases such as:

  • Strategic
  • Squared away
  • Target
  • Warfighter
  • Weapons
  • Friendly fire
  • Combat

Keep in mind, translating the experience is not the same as rewording your past experience. Start by thinking about:

  • Your chosen career path
  • The sector you’re seeking to work in
  • Your experiences outside of the military

Then, you can move forward with the translation process. To begin translating your experience, use the Empire Resume 3-step approach:

  1. Reacquaint yourself with skills such as soft and technical skills
  2. Compile your list of skills and achievements
  3. Compare your skills to your prospective career job descriptions

With all the experience that you’ve translated, you may begin to wonder how long your resume should be. “I have a ton of experience,” you say. Other veterans say, “I’ve achieved so much.”

While you’ve demonstrated superb performance in the military, you must be able to decide between what is important for your resume, and what’s not important. This way, you can work to keep your resume under two pages.

4. Make It No More Than Two Pages

Writing Military Resumes

I always tell transitioning service members and veterans that their resume should be a maximum of two pages. Over the past decade, resumes have dwindled down from the lengthy 3 to 5 pages to simply no more than two pages.

LinkedIn conducted a study a few years back showing that a hiring manager spends 6 seconds looking at a resume.

Ladders, another highly credible job information source, suggests that your resume has 6 seconds to make an impression on a recruiter.

I’ve substantiated this timeframe many times with several managers and they’ve informed me that they never spend more than 10 seconds reviewing a resume.

For this reason, your resume should be clear, concise, and direct, without fluff. Believe it or not, the necessary, relevant information you need to show you’re the best candidate can fit on two pages.

If you were the recruiter, would you have time to thumb through or scroll through 5 pages of experience especially considering you receive hundreds of resumes for the position? Most likely you wouldn’t. Never forget that you only have 6 seconds to stand out and be seen.

Everyone’s resume will be different as there are several factors that will affect the length of your resume:

  • The industry you’re applying to work in
  • Your years of experience
  • Your unique achievements
  • The number of positions held
  • Relevancy of information

If you are discouraged because your resume is one page and you’d like to reach the two-page mark, you can highlight other areas.

For example, some veterans have a long history of professional experience, but their education is not as lengthy.

You can expand on other parts of your resume such as certifications and achievements to stand out among the competition. But you must remember that some information is best suited for creating a veteran LinkedIn profile instead of your resume.

Whatever information that does not make it to your resume, include it within your LinkedIn profile. Doing so can provide further insight into who you are and other interests you have.

After creating the resume with the rules mentioned above, the final rule that remains is keeping your resume updated.

5. Keep Updating It

Writing Military Resumes

Creating your resume is a huge relief off your shoulders. But the real work of updating the resume never ends.

Your resume is a living, breathing document that will follow you throughout your professional life and it requires you take action to maintain it.

Maintaining your resume is important because job security does not exist, and change is a necessary constant in life.

The average person changes jobs an average of 12 times throughout his or her career. You may not see it now, but you will have job changes throughout your career.

You may work for different companies, or one day you’ll wake up and decide to start a veteran-owned business.

Since leaving the Air Force, I’ve helped thousands of veterans land the private or public sector job they deserve by writing military resumes and even federal resumes.

Keeping your resume updated is a way of honoring yourself and being prepared for the opportunities coming your way.

Allow Empire Resume to Be Your Second Set of Eyes

Once you’ve completed your resume, allow a certified professional resume writer at Empire Resume review your resume for accuracy.

We can serve as your second set of eyes and offer a second opinion before you even use the resume to apply for a position with your dream company.

With our free resume review, we will provide you with an honest assessment of your current resume and show you what can be done to enhance your job search. We give you the information you need before spending a dime.

Remember, your new job is on the other side of the door. Some people never make it to the other side simply because of their resume. Don’t let the one opportunity you wanted to pass you by. You need an awesome resume to unlock the door.

Empire Resume is here to help you through the resume rejections because, unfortunately, they happen. Don’t worry, because it’s a part of learning. With our team by your side, you can pick yourself up after a resume rejection, bounce back and try again.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.

Writing Military Resumes

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